It has been crazy busy around here this Fall. In addition to normal pastoral duties I’ve been running a New Members’ Class and Officer Training on Saturdays. This means that the Session has to spend time interviewing new members, and soon will examine officer candidates. As a Session we’ve finally finished our revised By Laws and new Manual of Procedure (I can really hate trellis work), and we are getting ready to present a Master Site plan and “Bridge” Plan to renovate and expand our current facilities. Our music director took an unexpected leave of absence for a month so I had to provide additional leadership to our music ministry. There were also a few unexpected “crisis” that ate up time and energy. You know they will happen, but you don’t know when and they seem to come in bunches.
As if that wasn’t enough, in addition to normal Dad and Husband duties, two kids and CavWife had surgery this Fall. We had family in town for about 2 weeks and missionaries stayed with us back in September. I’ve also been editing a book in the hopes of publishing. Part of that has included some structural changes in chapters.
So obviously I should read Kevin DeYoung’s latest book Crazy Busy. Just makes sense, right?
Absolutely! The subtitle is A Mercifully Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem. The book really is short- 117 smallish sized pages that make it easy to read in short blocks of time.
“If you have creativity, ambition, and love, you will be busy.”
In terms of material he covers, I’ll start with the end. He admits that we should be busy because God has given us plenty to do to fulfill our calling. The problem is not being busy, but often we are busy with the wrong things. As a result we are often unproductive. This is not a call to the life of leisure, but wisdom: choosing the best instead of the good or the not-so-good. The reason we in the West tend to suffer, so to speak, in our busyness is that we don’t expect to be busy (and suffer) in addition to an unwillingness to make difficult choices.
“Paul had pressure. You have pressure too. But God can handle the pressure. Do not be surprised when you face crazy weeks of all kinds. And do not be surprised when God sustains you in the midst of them.”
Kevin writes the book from the perspective of a man who struggles with busyness. He is crazy busy himself and much of what he writes is what he is trying to implement. He hasn’t arrived at the perfect point of balance in his life. He is not making promises either as if he’s offering a 7-step plan to achieve bliss.
He does mention a few dangers that accompany busyness. One is that it can ruin our joy. Yes, there is supposed to be time to smell the roses, relish accomplishments and to meditate upon the glories of Christ (the most important of the 3). Busyness often leads to a frantic, anxious life. What often happens is that we don’t plan, or we plan to the margin. As he notes from Richard Swenson, we don’t plan for margin- the unexpected things that inevitably arise.
“Busyness is like sin: kill it, or it will be killing you.”
Another danger is that busyness can rob our hearts of the truth. Our heart becomes like the soil such in which the thorns choke out life. The cares of the world, and the desire for the world compete with God’s place in our lives. Instead of having a calling from God, our calling (and/or desires) become “god.”
Thirdly, busyness covers up the rot in our soul. We get so busy we don’t see that something is profoundly wrong with us. We don’t stop and identify where we are struggling or going awry. We are like the guy too busy to bring his car to see why the check engine light is on.
“Learn to say “no”, it will be of more use to you than Latin or Greek.” Martin Luther
DeYoung them moves into the reasons why we are busy. I’ll just summarize them. The first is the many manifestations of pride. We refuse to say “no” because we want the pats on the back. We want to please people and get that positive feedback. We like ego strokes. We also like the perks that come with success- possessions and position. Our pride can show up in failing to plan because we think we are good enough to wing it.
“We may all, to some degree, be busy because of pride, that doesn’t mean every bit of busyness is the direct result of pride.”
Another reason we are too busy is that we try to do what God does not expect us to do. For some of us opportunities feel like obligations. Just because we can do something does not mean we have to do it. We can say “no” and the world won’t fall apart. Sometimes it can be driven by anxiety. Often we are anxious because we treat a concern like a responsibility. There are many things that concern us that are not our responsibility- they are actually someone else’s: another person’s choices for instance. We don’t need to do all that we could possibly do, but must do what God tells us to do.
The 3rd reason he gives is “mission creep.” The failure to set priorities means that everything seems as important as everything else. I have to raise my kids in the fear and admonition of the Lord, but I don’t have to make sure they learn how to play piano, baseball, soccer & basketball or dance and gymnastics. If we set priorities we will discover what we should say ‘no’ to and what to say ‘yes’ to. This is true for churches, and individuals. Know what you’re supposed to do, and do that first.
The 4th reason is we freak out about our kids. Yes, this is related to my illustration above. He brings up kindergarchy- when everything revolves around your kids. Your kids’ schedule begins to set your schedule. We can stop trying to be the “perfect parent” and comparing ourselves to other parents. We can regain sanity by recognizing that our kids will be just fine without all the toys, trips and who knows what.
5th is letting screen time strangle you, or at least make you numb to life. Technology reminds me of Sydney in Little Shop of Horrors: “Feed me!” We get sucked in to more and more technology and time spent on blogs, FB, podcasts, online shopping …. We become like sheep w/out a shepherd- harried, dumb and fearful. We can make choices to limit the influence (dominance?) of technology in our lives.
The 6th is rediscovering the rhythm of life: work and rest. God gives us time for both. The Sabbath is a gift for you! Enjoy it! This is technology can get us: blending work time and play time. We do them both joined to our technology. We think we have to be accessible to the world, and it to us, 24-7. We don’t.
DeYoung provides us with some good things to think about so we can begin to make changes. Again, the goal is not to avoid busyness. The goal is to be busy with the right things so we aren’t crazy busy all the time. We can’t survive if we are.
I found this a very helpful book. I also found it mildly frustration precisely because I’m editing my own book. His style of writing in this book is more conversational. Many sentences begin with conjunctions. It was very informal and for some reason that annoyed me.
Additionally, the editors missed numerous mistakes. There were words missing in places. I know this happens because I am finding lots of mistakes in my book (and I’m sure I’m missing some). However, I’m doing this in my spare time. Maybe they are too. I should relax but I am an editing Pharisee.
I wouldn’t let those minor annoyances keep you from reading this book. It is a great little book and I need to remember to apply what he says more consistently.